SPANISH FORT -- A new package store will not open in Spanish Fort after City Council members rejected a land use plan that would have allowed liquor sales at the site on US 31.
The council voted unanimously to reject the proposal to allow liquor and other alcoholic beverages to be sold next to a convenience store on Spanish Fort Boulevard.
Mayor Mike McMillan said the owner of Papa John’s store requested that the new establishment be opened on a parcel next to the business. The mayor said residents living near the site sent in an eight-page petition with about 15 signatures on each page. The petition asked that the council reject change.
“It’s been a hot topic everywhere in the city,” McMillan said.
City Councilman Bill Menas said most of the area residents signed the petition and the congregations of eight churches near the site also expressed opposition.
“I don’t recall in my seven years serving here that 120 people, roughly, signed the petition when there’s probably 200 people in that neighborhood, so that’s a big outcry,” Menas said. “And then follow it up with from an outcry from the local pastors, almost all of them in the vicinity, so I would think that that would at least grab out attention.”
Many residents opposing the change addressed the council during a public hearing on the proposal.
Councilman Curt Smith said business owners should be allowed to use their property in ways allowed by the law, but the city also has an obligation to listen to the concerns of residents.
“I want to do what’s legal,” Smith said. “I want to allow a man who’s got an investment to invest the money the way he sees fit, but also, we have an obligation to the citizens to not allow something that would not be appropriate in that particular location.”
Menas said he also supported allowing owners to use their property as they wish, but not if the use disrupted the community.
“I don’t know of anybody who would support property owners’ rights more than a 30-year real estate broker her,” Menas said. “I always support the property owners’ rights to do what they want to do with that property, if it falls within the guidelines of the city, planning and zoning and so forth and does not disrupt their neighbors.”
The Spanish Fort Planning Commission had approved the change, but the request must also be submitted to the City Council. City Attorney David Conner said certain uses that might increase traffic in an area or create other public concerns, such as liquor stores, must also be approved by the City Council.